If you’ve seen a Gimbal or have seen a video taken with one, then we are pretty sure you have asked yourself this question: “How does gimbal work?” Well, who wouldn’t be impressed with this device? It’s got a level head and moves so smooth you’d think it’s got a mind of its own or some form of artificial intelligence!
While it is natural to think that the gimbal is a new technology, the system has been around for some time. Its non-electronic version has been used as far back as 280-220 B.C.
Accounts of the Greek inventor Philo of Byzantium talk of an eight-sided ink pot that allowed the user to dip a pen whichever way the inkpot was turned and without spilling. In Ancient China, the gimbal system can be found in many household items. Among them was an incense burner created by Ding Huan at around 180 A.D.
What Are Gimbals and How Do Gimbals Work?
A gimbal is a platform that can rotate along at least one axis. An image often associated with the gimbal is that of three concentric circles connected to each other perpendicularly at two points. The whole setup is mounted on a base similar to a boat’s instrument panel.
One axis is in charge of counteracting the up and down movement or the tilt, also called yaw. The other one is for the side to side motion or the pan, otherwise known as pitch. And lastly, you have one for the front and back shift or the roll.
When you mount an object at the center of the system, the object maintains a level position however you maneuver the base. So, how does it stay unperturbed, balanced, and upright? The secret lies in the axes! They move around to counteract external movements to keep the center at a level position.
A normal bowl, for example, will spill its contents if you tilt it at a certain angle. Turn it over, and you can expect everything inside to fall on the floor.
But if you integrate a gimbal system into this bowl, then it remains at an upright position, regardless of how you are holding the base of the gimbal or its outer circle. The bowl’s roll, pitch, and yaw axes make instant adjustments to counter shake, jolts, and other movements. Thus, the content inside the bowl is not spilled.
While gimbals seem to offer the perfect system, it is not without its limitations. One problem that may occur is a gimbal lock. This happens when two axes align, restricting the movement. This can be corrected by physically resetting the gimbals or maneuvering the surface.
Adding a fourth gimbal can also help eliminate gimbal lock. However, this means a bulkier and more complicated system, which isn’t what electronic devices are going for these days.
How Does Gimbal Work in Camera Stabilizers?
Besides physics, gimbals in a camera stabilizer make use of a complex system of electronics, sensors, and motors. Nevertheless, the aim is the same—to cancel out external motion. This is to provide a stable platform for the camera.
Basically, if you have a 3-axis gimbal, then you’ll find a motor placed on the three different axes around the camera. As the sensors detect bumps, shakes, and jolts on these axes, electric brushless motors work almost instantly to counteract these movements. And in the midst of all these activities, the camera keeps a level head in relation to a particular direction.
Compared to traditional stabilizers that use the principles of counterweights, gimbals produce more stable and smoother shots. They are not as sensitive to external forces such as the wind or inertia from a sudden brake. With traditional stabilizers, such factors can send the stabilizer to sway considerably before finding back its balance.
That is why gimbals make the perfect camera stabilizer when you’re shooting inside a moving a vehicle. In such instances, a tripod or a traditional stabilizer just won’t cut it. It would be too shaky! And if a gimbal can considerably improve your footage in a moving vehicle, then you can just imagine how smooth and stable the clip will be in normal conditions.
Plus, some gimbals make it possible for the camera to follow a target. Thus, the subject remains inside the frame no matter how you move the holder.
Other Things You Need to Know About Gimbals
- Gimbals have a shorter learning curve than counterweighted stabilizers.
- Gimbals can be classified based on the number of axes they have. Thus, you can have 2-axis, 3-axis, or 4-axis gimbals.
- 2-axis gimbals have two rings and two motors. This also means that the camera can stay fixed on a particular direction as you roll or tilt the camera holder, but the camera will follow when moved left to right or vice-versa.
- 3-axis gimbals translate into three rings and three motors. Besides keeping a level position during roll and tilt shifts, the stabilizer can also stay stable when panned or moved sideways.
- You can convert a 3-axis gimbal into a 2-axis gimbal by locking the third axis! So, 3-axis gimbals make for a versatile option.
- Gimbals may have a servo or brushless motors. Servo motors are lighter and cheaper, but their weight load capacity is quite limited. Brushless gimbals, on the other hand, offer more professional results and can take on heavier cameras.
- Gimbals require power to operate. Pack extra batteries when you use them!
So, how does gimbal work? Basically, gimbals work by countering external movements with rotations in the axes. And with the help of sensors, motors, and electronic parts, gimbals in camera stabilizers can fetch you even smoother and more stable shots or footages.
This technology is a great leap from traditional camera stabilizers that rely on counterweights to balance and provide you with smoother transitions or movements. And with more developments being made with gimbal camera stabilizers, we’ll be seeing better videos as these devices become readily available—and hopefully, more affordable.